Sunday, December 30, 2018

A Matter of Perspective

As part of my new life here in North Carolina, I get to spend time with a sweet lady every other weekend. My duties involve giving her something to eat before she takes her pills and then we get to go to lunch. Shortly after I took over this duty, I devised a way for her to take her pills without complaining too much. We play rummy and each time she loses a hand, she has to take a pill. Sometimes that works like a charm. But she's still sharp with her card playing skills and there are times when she wins more than she loses. So I revise the rules and tell her as payment for being such a good player she has to take a pill. She rolls with my flexible rules just fine.

Today we were talking about someone we both know who recently celebrated a life-changing event. My sweet lady had been told about the event months ago and was thrilled by the news, but today she said she was crossing her fingers that things would work out with this person. I love the fact that my sweet lady keeps getting excited about the same events time and again. Which brings me to my point.

I'm about to pick new covers for the re-release of two of my books in the Cotillion series which will come out early in 2019. I spoke to an author friend about this the other night as we talked about covers and we both were feeling as if it were a chore instead of the excitement we felt with our first book covers. Even though these books are not new, they are being spiffed up and presented to a new audience and need the same kind of care and dedication I put into the covers the first time around. I can get excited about the same events all over again, just like my friend. It's all a matter of perspective.

Be on the lookout for the new covers of Blinded By Grace and The Duplicitous Debutante, coming your way soon.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Happy Holidays!

Since this upcoming week contains the much-anticipated Christmas celebration, I'm taking this post to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays. Whatever traditions you incorporate this time of year, I wish you the best of all times, the creation of new memories and a prosperous 2019.

I have partnered over the last few years with two other authors on a blog called History Imagined. This week's post contains a list of Christmas murder mysteries for your reading pleasure during the season. You can view the entire list here:

And, if murder under the Christmas tree is not to your liking, you might want to try one of my Christmas books. Love's In The Cards is a contemporary story, set in Lobster Cove, ME. And if Regency is more to your liking, try A Regency Yuletide. Here are the blurbs and buy links for each:

Penny Beedle’s outlook on Christmas, as her favorite holiday, was destroyed by a messy breakup years earlier and a botched wedding last year—both on Christmas Eve. But since she and her sister now own a greeting card store, and the holidays are their crazy selling season, she has to put on a happy face. 

Del Madison has loved Penny since kindergarten. Commissioned by a big greeting card company for a line of Christmas and Valentine’s cards, he has to emerge from behind his alter ego and unveil himself to the public. He chooses Penny Beedle’s shop for the big reveal. If he plays his cards right, he just might gain Penny as part of his life.

After a disappointing season in London, Sophie Davenport returns home without a marriage proposal. No sooner does she settle back into her country life than she learns her uncle has arranged for her to marry the local vicar’s son, a respectable and utterly forgettable man. He’s returning home immediately after the Christmas holiday and they will wed. She sets about making this last Christmas with just she and her mother memorable. 

Jeremy Wyatt hatches a plan to help his friend Thomas and his love, Emma, escape to Gretna Green and marry before her father comes after them. What he’s really doing is avoiding heading to his parents’ home, where he is the son who is always making the wrong choices. But their carriage becomes hopelessly mired in the mud from the incessant rains so Jeremy sets off to find shelter for them at the first house he comes to. 

Sophie welcomes the wet and weary travelers, and her mother agrees to house them temporarily until they can free the carriage. Sophie forms a bond not only with Emma, but with Jeremy. However despite the sparks they ignite in each other, they have to maintain their separate paths.  

But love and mistletoe have a way of upsetting even the best-laid plans. 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Putting The Pieces Together

Like a lot of writers, I'm absolutely addicted to jigsaw puzzles. In fact, my day doesn't start until I finish the free daily Magic Jigsaw puzzle. There's always a point during the solving of the puzzle where there are more pieces scattered about than are locked into place and you begin to lose hope that it will come together. But then, as you keep moving like colored pieces together, a few more lock in and before you know it, you've figured it out and the final pieces come together quickly.

This is a lot like the process of writing a story. You start out with the borders in place and locked down. You know how the story starts, what the conflicts are, and how it will end. But the middle pieces can get confusing regardless of whether you plot or not, and you'll soon end up with more pieces scattered about with no solution in mind. Then, the eureka moment happens and you can see what the big picture is supposed to look like.

That happened this past week with my current WIP. I'd written two versions of the story prior to this one, and am picking up pieces from each of the first two to use in the third version. I had bits and pieces scattered all over the place with no big picture idea of how to put it all together. Then, like magic, a piece fit nicely to what I had already locked in place, and then another. I think I can put the remaining pieces together without too much of a hitch. It's a good feeling, and I race through the Magic Jigsaw Puzzle in order to get to the puzzle that is my story.

There are days when I struggle to write, and then there are days like what happened last week, when I remember the reason I show up for work every day. Because it's fun to spin out a story and see if, in the end, it makes sense and makes someone else as happy as it made me when I wrote it.

Today's the last day to take advantage of the big Christmas sale over at Prairie Rose Publications. The revised The Reluctant Debutante is only 99 cents, but there are many more at that price or even Free! Take a look here:

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Resetting The Needle

My nephew recently made the big decision to move from one coast to the other in an attempt to get a better-paying job. As with any major move, be it across the country or from one profession to another, there will be bumps along the way. In his case, he's had to fly back to the west coast to drive his car here by himself, since the car transport company was a bust.

His dilemma got me to thinking about my own moves this past year. Yes, there were some snags with the physical move from Ohio to North Carolina, but the bigger move was the closing of Crimson Romance, who held eleven of my titles. While I waited for the rights to those titles to be reverted back to me, it's given me time to reflect on my career and which direction to take it–to reset the needle, as it were.

I've got plans for 2019 that will reveal what I've been working on while I have settled into my new home. While you're waiting, I'll share with you a scene from my WIP. This young lady came out of the shadows of my mind and wandered into the scene with our brooding hero. She's not his lady love, but she reminds him of her. Let me know what you think of Lady Philippa.

“What is wrong with the gent yer father chose?” If she had a good reason for wanting to head to another country, Angus could offer his help. 
She held up her hand and began ticking off the reasons there. “First, he’s ancient. More than twice my age. Second, he’s quite ugly and wrinkled. Third, he’s already had three wives, all of whom died suspiciously. I have no wish to be Number Four.” 
“How did his wives perish?” 
“Word is, he beat them every time they produced a child who was not a son. He now has eight daughters, who all need dowries to marry, and he’s gambled his fortune away.” Philippa shuddered. “He needs the money my father will bestow on him for taking me off his hands.” 
Angus rolled his shoulders. And made his decision. “What kin I do to help ye?” 
Even in the dark, he could see the sparkle in her eyes. “My plan is to dress as a boy and stow away on one of the ships. I can cut my hair and bind my breasts, but I need some clothes, befitting my new role. And then, I’ll need some help getting on board.” 
In a flash, he saw Lily, dressed as a boy with her hair cut short. But Lily didn’t want to masquerade as a boy and Philippa did. “I’ll git ye some clothes and help you git on board. Jest tell me where to meet ya.” 
She laid her hand on his arm. “Midnight, at Billingsgate Dock, on Lower Thames Street. Do you know where it is?” 
“I’ll find me way.” 
Philippa stretched up on her toes and grazed his cheek with a kiss. “And you can call me Pip. That’s going to be my new name.”
He grinned. “Alright, Pip me lad. Midnight, it is. We both have things to do.” 
She glanced at the entrance to the ballroom. “We’ve been out here far too long and my father will be wondering where I’ve gone to. I’ll head back inside first.” She shifted her gaze to him. “Please don’t let me down.” 
“I canna. I gave me word. Go on with ya, Pip.” 

She strode to the doorway with a strong stride, never glancing back. Angus followed her movement. She could probably pass as a boy for a while. Long enough, anyway, to be off on her new adventure. He ran a hand over his cheek, where she had kissed him. What the hell had he gotten himself into? Could he serve jail time for his actions as an accomplice? What would his uncle say if he found out? His thoughts flicked back to Lily. Here he was, helping one woman get into boy’s clothing. And every thought he had of Lily was how to get her out of hers. 

Remember, this is a work in progress. I may cut her out completely from the story before I'm done. It all depends on your comments. 

Sunday, December 2, 2018

What To Wear?

Tonight I'm heading to my first-ever function at the country club in my community. I've never thought of myself as a part of the country club set, so I've been puzzling for days over what to wear this evening. Fashion etiquette has evolved, or in some cases, disappeared, making it impossible to know what is appropriate attire for a country club Christmas party.

When I was young, fashion was simple. You wore dresses to church and school. When you came home from either, you immediately had to change out of them and into play clothes. Often on Sundays, we'd go from church to my mom's sister's house, so Mom packed play clothes for us to wear during these visits. How times have changed.

I'm writing books set in the Regency era right now, and the fashion dictates are strictly adhered to, if you are lucky enough to be a member of the Ton. Often, a great portion of your day was spent changing from one appropriate gown to another, with help from a full staff who took care of your clothing. Thank goodness, how times have changed.

My brother was in town recently and we stopped into a men's clothing store in Pinehurst. While he was trying on very expensive jackets, I chatted with the salesman, who told me that even though I work from home, I still needed to dress as if I were at an office. I countered his argument by saying I write romance so it's only appropriate that I show up for work in my pajamas. He got a sly grin on his face, and said no, I should show up for work in the finest lingerie. The man did have a point.

So, while I ponder what to wear this evening, I ask you: What are you wearing?

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Dangers of Tryptophan

Most of America celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday. As I had done Thanksgiving early, I had the pleasure of eating some really great turkey soup instead of the traditional full-blown meal. However, the outcome was the same. I watched the Macy's parade, snoozed through a couple football games, and had another bowl of soup. The lack of energy was palpable. Even Mary, my little dog, only wanted to snuggle and sleep.

My list of things to accomplish during the week stayed static for a day. I had managed to get some writing done before I hit the soup, but not much got marked off after noon. Rather than beat myself up for not getting enough done, I decided to give myself a break. After all, some of my best ideas come when I'm not expecting them. A little down time may be just what my story needs.

Next week, I'll begin again with a new list of items to take care of during the week. Things I didn't think I'd ever do, like get a passport, buy a new suitcase and get my nephew moved from one coast to the other. But the unexpected is what makes life exciting. I hope the remainder of your year is filled with all the excitement and joy of the season. We're in the home stretch.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

What To Do?

Most of us who write walk around holding imaginary conversations in our heads with our characters. Sometimes these one-sided talks are lively and productive, but sometimes, our characters have minds of their own.

Such is the case with my latest couple–Lily and Angus. I've tried to write their story three different ways now, and just when I think I've got the right formula, one of them does something to totally overturn my plans. Their mutual attraction, upon which neither can act, is about to kill me.

I do some of my best plotting while floating in the pool at my nearby health club.

I haven't been able to get there for the past week, due to family being in town and other obligations. But I plan to go this afternoon, to ponder which road to take Lily down while I float in an Olympic-sized salt-water pool. If I don't drown, I just might have another chapter to write upon my return. Or maybe Angus (or Lily) will hold my head under the water.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Turkey Day

My family celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday, a whole two weeks ahead of the actual holiday. Because we're scattered from coast to coast, we've made it our mission to celebrate our favorite holiday of the year whenever we can manage to get three or more of us in the same place at the same time. This has become increasingly important since the deaths of our parents and the fact the five of us kids aren't getting any younger. My brother and his wife flew in from California for a few days, so my sister and her husband came over from their home in North Carolina, as did my niece, her husband and their two children. It was a packed house. I borrowed chairs from the neighbors and bought paper plates. We spent the day in the kitchen making our favorite dishes and sharing stories about growing up together in Ohio.

After all, it's not so much about the day as it is the people you share it with. Happy early Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Relaxed and Reinvigorated

I indulged last week and took four days off to go see a friend in the mountains. It was a good time for a break, since I'd just sent my current manuscript off to my agent. I took my laptop, but only so I could keep on top of my overflowing email inbox. I didn't do a lick of writing, either for my next manuscript or my side hustle job. Instead, I took a hike in the beautiful Asheville Arboretum and marveled at the red and orange colors of the trees.

Those who know me and my schedule know this behavior was very unlike me. But as it turns out, it was the best thing I could do. I was stuck, for the first time in my writing career, on where to take my next story. I told my friend of my dilemma and even though she wasn't a writer, she is an artistic person and gave me some really good ideas on how to approach my story line. I came back to the computer raring to go.

So, one chapter into my newest manuscript and three articles written for the side hustle, I'm back in the groove. And if I take a break, I can look at my pictures and I'm immediately back in the mountains. It was fun and I can't wait to do it again.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away for a bit.

Oh, and if you haven't already done so, please vote on Tuesday. Americans are blessed to have the right for each person over the age of 18 to cast a vote, so please exercise your civic duty.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Crossing The Finish Line

It's taken me five months and an equal amount of beta readers, but I think I'm finally there. My WIP, Remembering Iris, is polished up and ready for viewing by my agent. I wrote the first draft, edited it using Margie Lawson's techniques, added in the senses where they were missing, made sure there was enough conflict, dumped it into a word program, read through it, ran it through my editing software, let five people read and comment on it (Thank you all, BTW. It was a real help.) Then I read it again. And again.

I finished the final read-through this week. The fingers off the keyboard read-through (well, almost, anyway.) I'm ready to send it off and begin the next story. And therein lies the dilemma. What to do next? Shall I write Gaston's story? He's been nagging me for years now. Or Anjanette's? She unexpectedly wouldn't leave the pages in the work I just finished. How about Lily? All I have for that one is a wealth of information on building mazes from boxwoods, a kilt and a broadsword. The rest of what I'd written has been scuttled. What do do? Which way to turn?

I'm headed for the hills this weekend, where I will discuss my Lily plot with someone who's got a good grasp of puzzles. Perhaps by the time the weekend is over, I'll know which way to turn. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018


The air's a bit crisper. The scent of pine and wood smoke is in the air. Fall has always been my favorite time of year, and now, in a new state, it's become even more so. The sights and smells are somehow stronger, or maybe I just imagine so since they're not a harbinger of four months of ice and snow that's just around the corner in Ohio.

I'm taking next weekend to become one of the "leaf-lookers" I used to complain about when I had my cabin in West Virginia. That's right. I'm heading out to the NC mountains to observe the leaves changing colors. I've heard the spectacle is not as awesome this year as in years past–a combination of an excess of rain mixed with high winds from the two hurricanes that barreled through the state. We'll see.

In any event, it will be good to take a step away from my WIP, which I've been refining for the past two weeks. And, it will be good to step away from my side hustle job, which hasn't given me anything good to write about in over a week. I need a break and there's nothing finer than spending a weekend hiking in the mountains, hearing the rustle of the leaves, hoping for a bear sighting, or at least a deer or two. It will be a great way to reset my creative clock. A visit to the Biltmore will keep me in the historical era mind set and a few nights breathing in the autumn air on the deck will be a balm to my soul.

Can't wait.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Beta Readers

When I began my writing journey, I belonged to several critique groups, moving on when I outgrew them. Eventually I began to rely on two people to read my stuff, and two more author friends to bounce ideas off of. That method seemed to work for a while, but it's now time to take things to the next level. And to do that, I need beta readers.

To those of you not familiar with the term, here's the definition according to Wikipedia.

A beta reader is a test reader of an unreleased work of literature or other writing, who gives feedback from the point of view of an average reader to the author. A beta reader is not a professional, so that the opinion of an average reader can be heard. Usually, a beta reader will be unpaid.

For my latest endeavor, I used five beta readers, three of which were authors who also are readers of the romance genre. I just got back the final one, and was kind of surprised and pleased that the problems they noted were eerily similar. Timeline issues, scenes that drug along, scenes that didn't advance the plot, or the reader didn't buy the concept of the scene. The reason I'm pleased with the outcome is because that means I only need to concentrate on a few passages to straighten things out. One of the beta readers is known for her steamy sex scenes so she mentioned I few improvements I could make there. Another writes really good action scenes, so she helped me with that portion of the story. 

They say writing is a lonely job but it take a village to bring a manuscript from the typed page to a complete novel. In this case, it hasn't taken a village but a complete city. I greatly appreciate the hard work and hope the final product is better than anything I've written so far. 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Starting Over?

I put the finishing touches on my second book in my Regency series with a few questions in my own mind, which were confirmed by my agent. I didn't like the fact I had painted my hero as an alcoholic, even though I've had a lot of experience with such men and seen more than one give up the bottle when a good woman enters the picture.

I also didn't like that I made him a fugitive from justice, and had to stay in England against his wishes. That was too much the same plot point as I had in the first book in this series. To say I finished it while in the midst of chaos is an understatement. So when my agent bounced it back to me with the request for a total rewrite, I didn't object, but didn't know which way to turn.

Should I rewrite it, pulling out the problematic parts and put the puzzle pieces back together, knowing they won't all fit? Or should I toss out all those words which I pounded out over several chaotic months, rethink the whole idea and start over? Should I go back to square one and think about the seven basic plot points?

Number One. The Back Story haunts the central character.
Number Two. The Catalyst gets the character moving. It’s part of the story’s setup.
Number Three. The Big Event changes the character’s life.  
Number Four. The Midpoint is the point of no return or a moment of deep motivation.
Number Five. The Crisis is the low point, or an event that forces the key decision that leads to your story’s end.
Number Six. The Climax or Showdown is the final face-off between your central character and the opposition.
Number Seven. The Realization occurs when your character and/or the audience sees that the character has changed or has realized something.

Right now, the only thing I like about this book is the blue and green tartan my hero proudly wears.

I'll let you know which way I go with this. But regardless of which way the wind blows, it will blow a blue and green tartan plaid.

Sunday, September 30, 2018


Fall is in the air, I can smell it. The leaves have yet to turn here in North Carolina, but the days are getting a bit cooler and we don't have as much daylight as we did even a few weeks ago. I'm finally feeling like this is home, although I don't go far still without my pocket GPS system.

I'm also anticipating getting the rights to more of my books reverted to me from Simon & Schuster. I hope to have the remainder of the Cotillion Ball series be released to me in October so I can re-publish them with new covers. It seems to have breathed new life into the first four, all of which have now been released.

And, I'm anticipating hearing from two more beta readers for book three in my new Regency series. I've limited my beta readers before to only one or two, but this time I sent it to four people. The first two had the same comments about certain sections of the book, so I'm glad to have handled it this way. I'll make final changes, read through it yet again, and then send it off to my agent while I rework book two and start book four.

It's a busy time, but as the days grow cooler, I can again take walks with my dog, Mary. The parks system in Pinehurst is amazing with its interconnected trails and I need to explore it further. I had only discovered it before it became too hot to use.

That's what my fall will be like–working in the morning on books two, three and four of the Regency series, working in the afternoon on promotion for the re-released Cotillion books, and walks with Mary in the evenings. What will you be doing?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Fast Or Slow?

Years ago, before I realized I was a better writer than a seamstress, I made quilts. And years ago, there were two schools of thought regarding quilting–you could either do it fast or you could do it slow. The fast way involved machine sewing all those little squares and triangles together and then either tying your three layers together (backing, batting and top) or doing a minimal amount of hand quilting. The Long Arm quilting machines were only then coming into existence.

The slow way involved cutting out each individual triangle or square from a template and pinning it to the next piece to make a block, which then was joined to another similar block. Borders were added and then it was all pinned together and the three layers were painstakingly quilted by hand. Believe me, punching a needle through three layers of fabric and batting was not for the faint of heart and it was a source of pride when you could get your quilting stitch fine and consistent enough to reach 10 or 12 stitches to the inch. The quilt shown here was laboriously hand sewn and hand quilted while I was racing around the country years ago. While my friend took over the driving, I stitched the little triangles together in my lap. The pattern was appropriately called the Wild Goose Chase.

I attended a quilting exhibition on Friday and was amazed and disappointed to find only two quilts that were quilted by hand. There were some exquisite tops in vivid design and detail, but to me, the effect was lost because of the long arm machine quilting. As intricate as the stitching was, the quilts didn't have the puffy consistency that you got from hand quilting. They looked flat to me.

So why am I telling you this? Because last weekend, I attended a writer's conference where one of the  speakers talked about outlining your novel before you begin writing it. Her goal is to publish six books a year, and in order to do so, she creates an extensive outline for each one before starting. Her detailed chapter outline even included snippets of dialogue that she thought would be appropriate in the chapter. It's the writer's version of the long arm quilting machine.

I'm not one to disparage a writer's methods. We each have to find our own way of being creative, and if someone like Danielle Steel or this woman from the conference thinks outlines are the way to go, who am I to argue? If it works for them, fine. But to me, it felt flat. Leaving no room for creativity to take over in the middle of a scene, to connect the dots that only your subconscious is aware of before they come together on the page, seems more like a grind than a grin. But that's me and that's why I can't produce six books a year.

What about you? If  you're a plotter, do you use an outline? Write the synopsis first? Use a beat sheet?  How detailed do you get before you begin to put words on a blank screen?

Sunday, September 16, 2018


This week, an old Girl Scout song has been humming through my mind.
“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold” 
I sang this chant, along with my other Girl Scouts, back in the 1960s, and it never had much meaning to me until this week. I came back to Ohio, back to the Northeast Ohio chapter of RWA, for probably the final time. Seeing all my old friends who came along the publication journey with me, who shared in my excitement of my first book being published, was a real treat. Those two days of the conference, the endless hugs, and the whispered conversations, are something I won't ever forget. Old friends. 
But I now live in North Carolina, and have joined a new chapter of RWA that's just a tad closer than Ohio. The Heart of the Carolinas chapter, in Raleigh, is my new home, and I'll be attending their annual conference in October. I hope to get to know these ladies a bit better at this conference and make some new friends. 
Authors may write their manuscripts in a solitary environment, but we all need networks of like-minded friends to help us on our journeys. That's why I have more than one publisher. Not only does it offer a measure of safety, should a publishing house decide on a whim to close its doors, but you gain access to a whole new tribe of authors who all will cheer your successes, and help lift your spirits if you fail. The larger the circle, the better and more successful you will become. 

So here's to my friends, both old and new. May we always share love, laughter and success. Oh, and wine.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Breaking With Tradition

Anyone who's spent any time writing romance knows one of the cardinal rules of the genre is that the initial meeting of the hero and heroine must take place no later than Chapter Two.

I never liked following the rules.

My current WIP features a couple who are operating under false pretenses, not of their own making. She had been informed of his death six years ago, on a far-away battlefield. He had been informed of her marriage to another. He's a spy now, involved in an undercover operation and has assumed a different identity. So a meeting in the first chapter or two would undermine the entire concept of the book.

But what to do? If hero and heroine don't even have a conversation until page 100, how can I get around it, do what is expected of a romance and let them interact with each other? This is where brainstorming with my writing buddies pays off. We kicked around a couple of ideas and I finally decided a few lusty dream sequences by the heroine were in order. I've been adding in little snippets of dreams here and there before page 100, and it seems to be working. Maybe add in some fog, since the setting is London, after all.

I'll let you know how it pans out in the long run.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Rounding The Corner

My struggles to get my books back up on Amazon are finally sorting themselves out. Thanks to all of you who offered advice and suggestions. Both The Reluctant Debutante and The Abolitionist's Secret are now available, with Banking on Temperance and The Tempestuous Debutante slated for September.

Then, in October, I'll get new royalty (or, in my case, lack of royalty) statements from Simon & Schuster, which will clear the way for the rights to more of those books to be reverted to me. I will then work with my new publisher, Prairie Rose, to add new covers, rejuvenate the blurbs, and re-edit the work.

It's been a good feeling to see the revised versions back up on Amazon, and I'm excited about the new Kindle Unlimited option, where people can borrow the book instead of buying it and I get a certain amount for each page read. It's a great idea for those of us with already overloaded Kindles, and I've been quite happy with the results from the two books I have already in that  program.

In a few short weeks, I'm heading to Cleveland for a conference with my old RWA chapter. I'll get a face to face with my agent, and hope we can pound out a sensible plan to move my career onto an entirely new level.

I don't play baseball, but if I did, I'd be rounding third and heading for home about now. 2019 is just around the corner and it's going to be a great year. Bring it on. In the words of the immortal Stephen King:

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Filling In

I've used the analogy before of comparing the body of a book to a body of a human. I am proud to say I just finished the skeleton of my current manuscript and now am working on adding meat to my story.

I read through the story last week and am pleased with the way it spools out, but I noticed a few things that need fixing. There are a couple beats in the book that must be BIG, and right now they're only big. I need to strengthen them, beef up those sections of the book, maximize their impact. I'm working on it.

Most of you who follow along with me weekly know I've started going to a fitness center on a regular basis for the first time in my adult life. I alternate between water walking and using the Lightline exercise equipment. I've noticed a few little muscles starting to define my upper arms. I'm working on it.

Now I just have to do the same with my story. Give those sections of the book more definition, a better-looking mid-section. I've enjoyed a lot of my female characters–Ginger Fitzpatrick, Elise Lafontaine and Rosemary Fitzpatrick come to mind readily as favorites. But Iris Wilson, a mild mannered bespectacled bookkeeper who has kept her family on an even keel for years, may be my best heroine yet. Can't wait to share her beefed up story with you.

Keep an eye out for it.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Journey Continues

I continue to find myself in uncharted territory this year. Having the rights on my first four books reverted to me was only the start of the journey. I had to find a new publisher for the books, since I made the hard decision not to go solo with indie publishing.

Then, I had to work with the publisher to get just the right cover and blurb copy. After all, if I'm going to commit to putting this series back up on Amazon, it has to be better than before. Thankfully, my publisher, Prairie Rose Publications, is agreeable to working with me on cover development, so we had several back and forth tries before settling on this. The book, The Reluctant Debutante, is now available on Amazon in print version. The eBook copy will be coming along, hopefully in a few days. While I'm glad Amazon is inspecting all these re-releases carefully, it has me postponing my shouting from the rooftops moment. Maybe next week...

Read a bit more about this book. 

Beautiful Ginger Fitzpatrick wants nothing to do with New York City’s conventional society— after all, she is a bloomer-wearing suffragette who holds a position in her father’s bank! Her mother is determined her willful daughter must go to the popular Cotillion ball and look for a suitable husband during the “season”—and Ginger is given no choice.  But when she meets her brother’s best friend, handsome Joseph Lafontaine, the mysterious man sets Ginger ablaze with a mere glance—and gives her second thoughts about remaining single.

Joseph knows he can never have Ginger. He’s totally unsuitable as a husband for this spirited, cultured woman, for many reasons. He’s from the rough-and-ready Western city of St. Louis, and he’s her brother’s best friend. But there’s one thing he can never overcome: he’s a half-breed Ojibwa, forever tainted in the eyes of these high-society whites from the East. Despite the budding love between them, her family will never accept him.
Joseph returns to St. Louis, and months later, Ginger follows with her father to attend to banking business there. Through a twist of Fate, a deadly accident brings Joseph and Ginger together once more, and this time, neither will allow another separation. Can they find happiness together despite their different backgrounds? It’s all or nothing for THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE…

Now, for a taste of what's inside: 

New York City, February 1855  Ginger Fitzpatrick was in a pickle, that much was certain.
Her mother took her by surprise at breakfast by announcing to the family that Ginger would participate in the Cotillion ball two months hence. While her younger sisters squealed in excitement, Ginger couldn‘t find her voice to object to her mother‘s idea. She knew she must, considering that her father was known to grant every wish his wife had, but Ginger could only stare in confusion. And that wasn‘t the worst of it.
“George, her mother stated calmly to her father, “you must relieve Ginger of her duties at the bank so I have time to teach her the rules of etiquette she‘ll need for a full season of events. Dear Lord, I have only a couple months to cram in everything.
Astonished and stunned, Ginger turned to her father, hanging onto a thread of hope that her valued involvement at the bank would save her.
“Let me think about the best way to handle the shift in responsibility, darling. I‘ll make sure Ginger is free by the end of the week. He glanced at Ginger‘s stupefied expression and reached across the table for her hand. “Perhaps we could also offer a reward of some kind. Possibly a trip to St. Louis if she gets through the season without incident?
He had actually smiled over the breakfast table at her. As if the allure of a trip would make everything all right.
Now, Ginger strode down the hallway of the bank to talk to her father before he could continue the discussion with her mother. She had always been able to convince him of anything, if she wanted it strongly enough. After all, he allowed her to work alongside him at the bank, which went against all the rules of society and a woman‘s place in it. She stopped briefly at the window overlooking the street, watching the snow falling outside. It clung to the red bricks of the ornate bank building, and she longed to be as capricious as one of the snowflakes. Instead she had to present a strong argument to make her father see the folly in her mother‘s latest idea.
She stopped in front of his office door and smoothed her long gray skirt. Brushing her hand over her quivering stomach, she knocked.
Ginger was certain she could right this ship and make her father see things her way. At his gruff reply to enter, she inhaled deeply. She was going to have to tread softly to get out of this predicament.
“Papa, may I further discuss Mother‘s idea with you? “Yes, of course, my dear. But you know by now that once your mother makes up her mind, it‘s best to go along with it. Ginger glanced at him as her voice quavered. “But, Papa ...”
Her father merely raised a perfectly arched eyebrow.
Hmmm, the trembling voice trick usually worked. She‘d have to try a different tactic. Tears, maybe? She hated resorting to something as totally feminine as sobbing.
She cleared her throat and started again. “You are aware, are you not, of my worth here at the bank? With a sigh her father laid down his fountain pen and began to reposition his sleeves, which had been rolled up to avoid staining them with ink. “Your mother‘s decision for you to participate in the Cotillion has nothing to do with your abilities at the bank. I‘m well aware of your contributions. Now, do you want to talk about what‘s really at issue here?
Ginger attempted to regain her calm and to remember the precise arguments she‘d planned to present. “You obviously believe dangling a trip to St. Louis before me will be enough to get me through the Cotillion ball and the season Mother wants for me. And I agree with part of your logic. I should go to St. Louis, but without any strings attached. Basil has written to me, Papa, and told me about the West. Men there are more open-minded and not so stringent about what a woman can and cannot do. She began to pace around the office as she warmed to her subject. “Basil might be able to charm little old ladies into depositing their life savings into our bank, but I can make their money work for the good of the bank and for them at the same time. She turned to face her father. “Please, Papa, I am begging you to let me go now before the season begins. I must get away from stuffy old New York City. Our clients in St. Louis need me now, not in the fall.
“I agree it would be a good move for you, my child, even though I have full confidence in your brother‘s ability to run the St. Louis branch. Your mother is the one who needs convincing. And you know what she considers important.
“The Cotillion, Ginger whispered her reply, as tears began to well up in her eyes, unbidden. She knew she was losing this argument. Nonetheless, she persevered. “Who thought up this wretched ball idea anyway? I will feel like a piece of horseflesh at the Cotillion, being paraded about like a fine filly and up for grabs to the highest bidder. She stamped her foot in frustration.
Ginger watched her father‘s jaw flex. He was not an imposing man, but he had a will of iron. He needed a strong constitution to have successfully raised nine children and to have provided a privileged life for all of them. So, when she saw the movement of his jaw, she knew what it meant. Things were not going to go her way.
George Fitzpatrick stood and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “I know you despise the idea, but you are not the only one concerned here. You have your sisters to consider. You know how high society works in New York, especially when the Astors and Schemerhorns are involved. If a precedent is not set this year for our family, your sisters will bear the brunt of it.
“But, Papa ...”
He raised a hand to silence her. “They will not be invited to any future balls and will miss their opportunities to be presented to society, all because of your selfish acts. I doubt you want to carry that mantle on your shoulders for the rest of your days, do you? He smiled to soften his words.
“Papa, you can‘t be serious! My actions really won‘t have any impact on my sisters, will they?
He nodded in affirmation, and his eyes flashed at her. “Should you choose not to participate, or to make life difficult for your mother, there will be no trip to St. Louis for you, now or in the future. You‘ll stay at our home here in New York with only your sisters for company, who will be forever known as the ‘Spinster Fitzpatricks.’ Won‘t you have a lovely existence to look forward to?
She dropped her head and softly asked, “So exactly what do I have to do?
George raised both hands in front of him, ticking off each item on his fingers. “You will do whatever your mother wants. Obviously, there will be fittings for new clothes between now and the ball in April, so you will be relieved of your duties here at the bank as of Friday. You will also limit the amount of time you spend with that rabble-rouser, Amelia Bloomer. Your mother will spend the next two months giving you the etiquette lessons you‘ve been avoiding for years, in preparation for the high social season of balls, parties, plays, and operas. You will participate in each and every event and will present yourself with dignity in accordance with our family‘s position in society. You will appear to have a good time, even if it means you will be putting on an act every night. All this will be over and done with by August, and if you have done everything to your mother‘s satisfaction, I will allow you to go to St. Louis. But only if you still want to.
“Of course I‘ll still want to.
Ginger gulped as a tear slid down her cheek. She turned her face away, hoping her father wouldn‘t notice her moist eyes. He had never been this unreasonable before. For one of only a few times in her life, she could not cajole him into doing her bidding. She brushed the tear away, smoothed her skirt, and then turned back to him, meeting his tough yet tender gaze.
“All right then. I will do what you ask, Papa, to appease Mother and for the sake of my sisters. But I want you to know I will hate every moment of it. I will be marking off the days between now and the end of August when I can escape the bonds of conventional society and move to the frontier. I will never become any man‘s chattel.
Her father smiled. “That‘s all I ask for, Ginger. Peace and harmony on the home front. Thank you for being so agreeable. His voice held more than a touch of irony.
She closed her father‘s door and walked slowly back to her office. Ginger stood in the middle of the small room and placed her hands on her hips. Under her breath she muttered, “Bless my bloomers, I‘ve been outfoxed.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Holding Myself Accountable

Shortly after moving to North Carolina, my publisher decided to pull the plug on the Crimson Romance line of books. I had been frantically working on the next book in the series when suddenly I didn't have a publisher, a series or a deadline.

For the first time in six years, I didn't have a book due every six months. There was nothing looming over me. I was in a new place, trying to find my way to the grocery store, the library, etc., and now I was faced with the possibility of never being published again. What to do?

I made a list of things to accomplish that week, both personal and professional. Items like getting a new driver's license went alongside writing 1000 words a day for five days. I really enjoyed marking things off the list. It gave me a sense of purpose and of pride when I could rip off the page with everything crossed off.

As I settled into my new life, I continued making a list each week. The list grew longer as I added things to my routine–the fitness club three times a week, physical therapy twice a week, taking care of my friend's mother every other weekend, writing 5000 words a week, applying for part-time work, etc.

Now it's become my routine to make a new list each Monday morning. So far, I've continued my program goal at the fitness center three times a week, I'm starting my second month of physical therapy, my agent and I have come up with a solid plan for my abandoned series and I've finished the first draft of my current work. Things are looking up, all thanks to finding a way to hold myself accountable during turbulent times.

How about you? What is your method for getting things done?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Character Development

There's a theory in the writing community that in order to make your characters believable, you need to know them inside and out. Some people do character sketches and go way beyond hair and eye color, getting fixated on what caused their internal conflict as well as their external ones.

Each author has a different approach to crafting a new story, so here's mine: I write a beat sheet, a couple sentences for each of the 15 points that will carry the story from start to finish. Then, I write a synopsis, expanding on the beat sheet to make it into two or three pages. I put together a bible if I'm writing a series, but I merely list age, hair and eye color and any distinguishing marks or traits of my characters. Nothing about their conflicts. I want to know the route the story is going to take and I figure out how many miles I can go in a day, but if I have a few detours along the way, or an interesting sight alongside the road attracts my attention and makes me slow the story until I check it out, I'm okay with it.

Every good story needs a cast of characters other then hero/heroine. After all, we all have family, friends, neighbors, business acquaintances, etc. Most of the time, they play bit parts and their time on the pages is minimal. However, there are times when these characters demand to stand up and be counted.

Such is the case with my latest WIP. My hero owned a detective agency and I needed to give him a case other than the big one, to make his agency legit. I chose a philandering husband and a wife with means. Little did I know the mistress would become a character who demanded to be treated not merely for her charms as a courtesan, but as an intelligent, beautiful woman. She quickly morphed from being called Miss Sumptuous Breasts, a casualty of their detective work, to the classic beauty, Anjanette Shelby.

I've had other books where the secondary characters won't leave me alone and I usually write their stories later. Such was the case with my Legend Award winning hero Jake, who first surfaced in Banking On Temperance when he was every bit the gentleman when Temperance spurned him for Basil. Now, before I even go through the editing process and put a spit polish on Remembering Iris, the next Flower Girl novel, my courtesan, Anjanette, is tapping me on the shoulder demanding for her entire story to be written.

Patience, patience Miss Sumptuous Breasts. I'll get to you.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

First Drafts

Lately, I've been going to physical therapy, hoping to improve my weak leg which is a remnant of my botched hip replacement surgery, and have been inundated with knowledge about my muscles, tissues and skeleton. And when I'm not in PT, I'm drafting the next book in my Flower Girl series. So, of course, I had to connect the dots.

Writing a first draft is similar to creating a skeleton for your story to hang on. It's certainly not complete until you add in the details, but you need a sturdy skeleton, or the story won't hold together. You start with the basics, the big bones, as it were. Femur, tibia, fibula, ulna, radius. You get the idea. These are the building blocks of your story–the ones that make the story have legs to stand on and arms to wrap around the reader. Eventually, you can add in the smaller bones–the fingers, toes, inner ear bones. These are the other parts of the story that give depth and tone–secondary characters, scents associated with the main characters, the lilt of a Scottish accent or the harshness of a shrew.

Many writers think they're done after they put their draft together. After all, it's a big chore to get an idea from start to finish. I agree that it's a monumental feat, and something that more people fail at than succeed. But in order to finish the book, you need to add to the skeleton. To flesh it out, as it were. By adding muscle, tissue and skin, you build tension, softness and grit into the story. That first draft gets rounded into shape and becomes a total package which you can then present to the world.

I'm rounding the corner on the PT–one more week before a decision is made whether to continue with it or to accept that it is what it is. And I'm rounding the corner on Remembering Iris. The skeleton is nearly complete, but I already know I will continue to pound it into shape and not accept it in its current state. It needs tissue, muscle and more grit. I need to add in the senses, show more emotion, dig deep into POV, flesh out the secondary characters, add more drama. All that comes during the second and third drafts. I might show it to my agent after the third run-through, or decide I need one more run at it. Regardless, I'm sure she'll have ideas on how to add more to it–put some polish on the nails, add some lipstick or blush.

Regardless of how many times I change things around, I know that by starting with a sturdy skeleton, I can bulk up the story without having it crater into a pile of miscellaneous parts.

I'm hoping to have the same results with my body.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

More Than Bragging Rights

In the romance community, contest season is in full swing.

A lot of the RWA chapters like to tie their event to the big national conference, which takes place each year in July. I recently acted as a category coordinator for the Northeast Ohio chapter's contest, and judged some entries in the historical category, which is my wheelhouse.

The reason I give back to the romance writing community in this way is because of the great feedback I got, and still get, from entering contests and letting total strangers read my work. When I'm judging an entry, I point out the strengths of each author and pick a few things they need help with. It's the way I like to get feedback and I hope my suggestions are taken in the manner they're intended and the author strengthens her work as a result.

Being a category coordinator is a slightly different animal. I assigned judges for the various entries and checked the scoresheets when they were returned. I was looking for solid comments that could help the writer without demoralizing them. We've all heard stories about how so much negative feedback made people give up on writing altogether, and I didn't want anything like that to happen on my watch.

In addition to participating in this way, I still enter contests, even with 19 books under my belt. I appreciate the feedback from these strangers and usually find some nuggets I can use to enhance my work. My most recent entry was for a work-in-progress, entered into the Romance Through The Ages contest. After I entered the work, I realized my point of view character should be the hero rather than the heroine, since his part in the story is what makes the story different from other mail order bride books. I've changed the title and have been working on this manuscript ever since, changing it around, but the entry stood in the first version.

So what happened? I placed third in my category--Colonial/Civil War. But my hero, Jake, was nominated for the Legend award, for the hero most likely to become legendary, and he won!

So, even with no real feedback in the form of a scoresheet yet, I already have proof that Jake needs more screen time and the beginning of the story needs work. Revisions are next up on my queue, right after I get my Regency heroine out of the mess she's created for herself.

But, since bragging rights are part of the contest frenzy, here are my badges to show the results of the most recent contest. Huzzah!

And as some have already guessed, the hero, Jake Shelton, first appeared in one of the Cotillion books, Banking On Temperance. He was the one spurned when Temperance finally admitted her love for Basil Fitzpatrick. And, yes, my muse for him was Blake Shelton, while he was still married to Miranda Lambert. I'll never forgive him for his defection to Gwen Stefani, but obviously, as the recipient of the Legend award, his actions, both when Temperance spurned him, and now, in the WIP, are the stuff of legends.